City Council members, disturbed about the presence of cancer-causing poisons in the water supply under the Coyote Canyon landfill, this week demanded that the county take steps to correct the “potential health threat” before the poisons seep into the city’s drinking water.
City Councilman Larry Agran said the council urged the county to construct a dam and pump out the toxic agents in the water to prevent the waste from running into the city’s drinking water supplies. The council has also requested quarterly measurements of the toxin levels and improved management of the landfill.
“Any and all protective measures must be taken to protect the public health,” Agran said, noting that metal and petroleum traces found in the landfill water had moved 1,300 feet beyond the perimeter of the Coyote Canyon landfill and could travel up to 50 feet per year.
Frank Bowerman, director and chief engineer of the Orange County Waste Management Program, argued that there was no need for an “emergency-type alarm” despite the presence of the chemical trichloroethylene, commonly referred to as TCE. TCE has been measured in concentrations of eight parts per billion at the landfill, a concentration that exceeds the state’s action level of five parts per billion.
Bowerman said the most obvious explanation for the toxin level is the earlier practice of discarding TCE, a common solvent, in the days when workers cleaned tractor parts and discarded the carcinogen on the site. The chemical was later outlawed in the United States.
The county has allocated $500,000 for the underground dam and pump to halt the contaminated water before it leaves the landfill. The dam is scheduled to be completed before this winter’s rains carry water from the Coyote Canyon landfill to Bonita Creek, where officials fear it may eventually surface in Upper Newport Bay. Bowerman said there is no drinking water downstream from Bonita Creek.
Bowerman added that the county has been aware of the presence of toxins for more than a year and studies show “the concentration is growing slightly.”